An early miscue from the defense was enough for the home team to sneak one past John Pulskamp and secure three points.
The first minutes of the opening half of the 2023 season reminded us of the concerns headed into the campaign with a shaky performance from the backline.
Miscommunication in the fifth minute gave John Pulskamp an early jump into action when Robert Voloder almost pulled an “Austin FC” when an errant back pass landed directly into the path of the Timbers attack. Pulskamp sprung into superhero mode and slapped the ball away, only to have to jump back onto a rebounded shot for a corner kick.
Andreu Fontas was able to poke a few balls away from promising attacks from the Portland Timbers, but a miscue from Ben Sweat allowed Yimmi Chara to find Juan Mosquera onside who finished it under Pulskamp for an early lead in the 6th minute.
Sporting would find their way back into the game and got back to their signature possession-dominant ways holding the Timbers to zero shots the rest of the half (and much of the second half) after falling behind.
Fast forward to the 24th minute and Erik Thommy nearly found the back of the net twice forcing a double-save out of David Bingham in what would be SKC’s best chance of the half.
As Sporting continued pushing for an equalizer, Ben Sweat cleared a Portland fast break in the 30th minute, but Yimmi Chara suffered a non-contact injury on the play that forced a stoppage in play and a first half sub for the home team as Santi Moreno came on for his countryman.
Despite dominating possession in the first half and a better end to the half defensively, SKC struggled to create dangerous chances in any facet of the attack. Defensively, Remi Walter was a stalwart in front of the defensive line.
The second half was much of the same story. Portland started on the front foot for the first 10-15 minutes before Sporting regained control of the ball, still in search of a tying goal.
It took until the 58th minute for the Timbers to register their first shot since their 6th minute goal, but it skied over Pulskamp’s goal.
Two minutes later, Espinoza’s head was on the receiving end of a Thommy corner kick that just went wide of Bingham’s net in what was one of SKC’s best chances of the game.
In the 70th minute, Peter Vermes made his first subs of 2023. Espinoza and Thommy exited for Felipe Hernandez and Marinos Tzionis. The pair of youngsters added a boost of energy on the field, feeding balls forward to Shelton, Salloi and Agada.
Offseason signing Tim Liebold made his MLS debut coming on in the 73rd minute for Ben Sweat, who besides his gaff in the early first half, made the most of his night in the attacking third.
Salloi nearly found the back of the net in the 77th minute of the match when an early cross from Graham Zusi meant for Agada ricocheted into the path of Salloi who chested it down and hit it off the volley only for Bingham to parry it away.
Sporting wouldn’t go down without a fight, but struggled to create chances that would test Bingham. Agada finally got a chance in the box in the 91st minute on a corner kick and headed it wide as stoppage time ticked away.
Portland almost doubled their lead in the dying moments as Zusi attempted a quick freekick with a Timbers player in his way, in hopes that referee Tim Ford would blow his whistle, but instead, it caused a fast break and Pulskamp once again came to the rescue.
Possession: SKC - 57%, POR - 43%
Shots: SKC - 12, POR - 7
Passes: SKC - 422 (85%), POR - 295 (75%)
Cornerkicks: SKC - 11, POR - 3
Fouls: SKC - 9, POR 12